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Wreak Havoc to the Rhythm!
Mad Rat Dead is a rhythm-action game by Nippon Ichi. It was released in Japan on October 29th, and in America and Europe on October 20th, 2020 for Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
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The plot follows a lab rat (called 'Mad Rat') left for dead after a Mad Doctor dissects his heart out. In the afterlife, a mysterious being known as the "Rat God" offers him the chance to relive his final day, giving him a new heart with time-rewinding powers. Deciding to change his fate of ending up on the cutting board, he uses his new heart to travel back in time. Now accompanied by his (now talking) heart, he must get revenge while keeping to the beat.

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Mad Rat Dead provides examples of:

  • Androcles' Lion: Mad Rat manages to save the black cat he fought from drowning. In turn, the cat refuses to eat him when they cross paths later thanks to Rat God. Also, in a rare case of the main character being the proverbial lion, Mad Rat repays the little girl that saves him by rewinding time to save her from getting hit by a truck.
  • Animal Jingoism: Mad Rat fears/hates cats, and for good reason. However, he does save the black cat from drowning, presumably out of guilt. It doesn't stop him from being afraid of the cat. When Heart reveals that he was afraid Mad Rat would hate him because he's a cat, Mad Rat says he doesn't care about that and then hugs Heart.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • You do not have to be constantly moving and pressing buttons with every pulse that is shown at the bottom of the screen. So you can stop to assess the situation and/or move, say, every other beat if you need to and not lose your combo right away, just make sure you get back on beat once you start moving again.
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    • The rewind mechanic allows you to go back at max a full minute before you got hit or fell, but pressing left shows different moments between that cut off point so you can pick up at a comfortable and closer point and not waste as much time getting back on track.
    • Collectables stay collected even if you're forced to rewind (Though this can be a detriment as you are no longer able to use them to restore time on the clock).
    • Getting hit does not lock you out of higher stage ratings, as long as you manage to get to the end in a reasonable time, the threshold for being hit or failing to a hazard is fairly forgiving as long as you get back on track well.
    • In music where the beats you have to hit are more spaced apart (particularly in hard difficulty), the gameplay will actively slow down, so if you're say, in mid-jump you can have an easier time to get your bearings
  • Arc Words: "Mad", "Wish", and "Mark".
    • "Mad" refers to the insanity and rage some characters have, but also deals with the titular Mad Rat's fading grasp on reality thanks to Rat God.
    • "Wish" is carried by all three main characters; Mad Rat's wish to leave his mark on the world by killing the scientist, Heart's wish is to make Mad Rat happy, and Rat God's wish to live by leading Mad Rat to be eaten by a cat so she can continue to live within it.
    • "Mark" refers to leaving an impression on the world, with Mad Rat and Heart wanting to kill the scientist while saving the black cat and little girl along the way. Rat God, meanwhile, must leave her mark by leading him to be eaten by a cat.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Most of the boss fights are this, but especially the final battle with the Rat God.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: Once Mad Rat comes back to life, his heart not only floats inside a hole in his body but also becomes its own character, freely flying from and to the main character's body at any time. It turns out that the Heart that Mad Rat had for the game was given to him via a heart transplant, and Heart originally came from a cat.
  • Big Bad: Initially, the Doctor seems to be this, as they are responsible for many of Mad Rat's hangups. However, it turns out that the true antagonist was the Rat God all along.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Heart is small enough to fit inside Mad Rat's chest cavity. In the end, however, this dynamic is reversed when Heart turns out to be a cat.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Mad Rat defeats the Rat God and frees himself from her control, yet is still destined to die, though not before helping Heart escape from being dissected. Heart then goes on to convince the black cat to not eat rats and save the little girl from getting killed by a car. He then returns to Mad Rat one more time to comfort him in his last hours.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: While Mad Rat is obsessively eager to kill the scientist, the boss of level 1-5 shows that he's somewhat justified, given that the scientist apparently mass-lobotomized and heavily experimented on an entire cage of rats in a very short period of time. It's ultimately played with, as the Mob Rats were never experimented on and Mad Rat was only hallucinating the whole thing, but the doctor's personality depends on the questions you answered in the intro, and as such, can either be a good person or a horrid one. Mad Rat himself also becomes a kinder and downright altruistic rat as the game goes on. In the end, the only character who truly is evil is the Rat God, and even then she is partially driven by the instinct of reproducing.
  • Black Blood: Subverted: The Mob Rats are leaking an ambiguous yellow liquid, but the Rat God implies that the yellow liquid is actually blood. Later, once Mad rat kills the scientist, the scientist is more clearly bleeding yellow blood. However, Heart's boss battle involves lots of red (and purple) blood, which becomes the standard way of showing blood from that point on the game. The truth is that Mad Rat was merely hallucinating killing the Mob Rats and the Scientist; Should Mad Rat choose to kill the scientist for real, the scientist bleeds red blood.
  • Body Horror:
    • The main character ends up a stitched-together zombie that has a hole clean through the middle, ribs showing. In between the ribs is a floating heart.
    • The first boss is the Mob Rats, all of them having been seemingly lobotomised and their brains replaced with exploding ones filled with needles.
  • Boss Remix: "HEART's Beat", the theme of Stage 1-3 gets a fittingly more dramatic remix for Heart's boss battle.
  • Bright Is Not Good: The Nightmares are comprised of many bright colors, and they serve as the game's Mooks. The Rat God is also very brightly-colored compared to other characters, and she's the Big Bad.
  • Bullet Hell:
    • A couple of the bosses qualify. Heart's blood projectiles, Phantom Moon's minions when combined with their explosion attack, Rat God's projectiles downplay this somewhat.
  • But Thou Must!:
    • The Rat God will talk to you as the player after the opening questions, culminating in her asking if you wish to go on. Saying no will have her going along with the choice for a moment before laughing and saying she knows you don't mean it, before asking again.
    • In the afterlife training stage, if you deliberately run out of time on the counter, the Rat God will be puzzled and give you more time (since it is the training stage after all).
    • Once Mad Rat's time is up, the Rat God explains that a cat is going to eat Mad Rat. You can have Mad Rat defy this fate, but, eventually she only gives you 'Yes' options. The Rat God even congratulates you on understanding, after you are forced to say 'Yes'.
  • Cartoon Cheese: All (non-melted) cheese is drawn this way.
  • Cats Are Mean: Outside the facility where the Doctor is, there's an alley with a cat that serves as a hazard and a boss. This trope is averted after Mad Rat convinces it not to eat rats anymore by saving it from drowning. Heart is also revealed to be a cat at the end, but he's still an incredibly good guy.
  • Cheesy Moon: Mad Rat lampshades this, to Heart's confusion. The cheesy moon turned out to be a hallucination. Mad Rat eventually sees the real moon.
  • Color Motif: Yellow, which seems to symbolise madness and hallucinations. For example, after Mad Rat massacres the Mob Rats, all of them are either lying in or oozing pools of yellow liquid. Upon initial inspection, this might be passed off as them trying to downplay the violence by omitting blood, but one only needs to look at the intro to see that this game has no qualms about showing graphic (albeit cartoonish) blood and gore. This suddenly comes into far clearer focus when Mad Rat manages kill the Human, where he bleeds a very vibrant shade of yellow. You might think that is a form of censorship (per the pink blood of Danganronpa), but a later battle involves lots of crimson (and purple) blood, which may start to clue one in to the fact see that something is very, very wrong. This comes to a head in the final levels of the game, which are shown to be the almost completely yellow cheese afterlife with its pretty veneer stripped away, with Mad Rat seeing it for what it truly is.
  • Creator Cameo: Of sorts. The boxes that fall down when Mad Rat lands on them are labeled "NIS.co.jp", which stands for Nippon Ichi Software, the game's publisher.
  • Dark Is Evil: A cat that chases and wants to eat Mad Rat is hidden in shadow, though the fact that its body stays black even when extending far from the shadows imply that the cat is already black-furred. However, the cat goes through a Heel–Face Turn once Mad Rat rescues the cat from drowning.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Mad Rat himself is coloured several shades of dark grey, but he wants revenge on a scientist that killed him. Mad Rat also averts the deaths of a cat and a human, whereas he can choose to spare the scientist, instead.
  • Dark Reprise: "MAD RAT, DIE" is a twisted and corrupted remix of the tutorial theme, "MAD RAT, ALIVE?", that accompanies the Rat God trying to kill Mad Rat once and for all.
  • Evil All Along: The Rat God.
  • Exact Words: The Rat God explains that, by nighttime, Mad Rat would die. This is not a Necessary Drawback of Mad Rat's time rewind powers; the Rat God is trying to have a cat eat him. Mad Rat eventually manages to escape that fate, but he is still going to die either from a bad heart or a failed heart transplant.
  • Foreshadowing: There are several clues towards the various twists of the game.
    • Heart cannot see certain things Mad Rat is seeing. This is because most of what Mad Rat is seeing throughout the first half of the game is largely a hallucination.
    • Mad Rat hates cats, but Heart doesn't. This foreshadows Heart's true identity as a cat.
    • Despite the Rat God saying the Nightmares haunt the afterlife, they still show up in the real world. This is the first clue that the Rat God is lying to Mad Rat.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: The rewind ability as displayed in the plot occurs whenever you die, or on demand. In a more specific example, in the level where Mad Rat is separated from Heart, Heart does not appear in the bottom left hand of the screen like he usually does.
    • At the end of the game, Heart tells Mad Rat he's seen him die before already. Due to the Time Rewind Mechanic, this is true.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Heart fights Mad Rat due to the rat succumbing to Rat God's brainwashing, and when that fails, slaps him to get him to realises he's been led into a trap. When the Ghost Rat returns, Heart does it again, revealing that it too is a product of Mad Rat's infected psyche.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: The Phantom Moon, which is summoned by the Rat God shortly after both Mad Rat and Heart confront her after saving the girl. You don't see its name unless if you look at the stage select screen.
  • Gratuitous English: The name of the protagonist is called 'Mad Rat' in English. His heart is just called 'Heart' in English.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Discussed: Heart discusses if Mad Rat could live forever by simply rewinding time into perpetuity. Mad Rat shoots down this possibility because he would not be truly living by being stuck in a figurative wheel. This foreshadows The Rat God Invoking and Exploiting this trope by forcibly rewinding his last day until he surrenders to being eaten by a cat, which is how Rat God, which is actually a Toxoplasma gondii parasite, reproduces.
  • Hate Sink: Rat God, a sapient Toxoplasma gondii parasite, who leads rats like Mad Rat to their death by cat. Being driven by an instinct to survive only excuses her so much, especially after she crosses the Moral Event Horizon once she hijacks Mad Rat's time powers to undo his good deeds (i.e saving the cat from drowning and the little girl from getting hit by a car) just to screw with him.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: At the very start of the game, you are asked to enter your name as well as answer a few questions. Near the end of the game, the relevance of this becomes apparent: You are the human doctor that experimented on Mad Rat at the very beginning, and your reasoning for doing so is dictated by the questions you entered.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The mad doctor who vivisects Mad Rat and performs many awful experiments on animals. This trope can be subverted depending on how the player answered the intro questions, revealing the doctor to be a good person whose evil deeds were illusions made by the Rat God. Also averted regardless with the little girl who saves Mad Rat.
  • Hyperactive Sprite: Mad Rat, Heart, and just about everyone else bounce to the beat in both cutscenes and in game... appropriate to a rhythm game.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Averted hard in "Some Kind of Hope" - Mad Rat witnesses a child being hit by a truck (the same child that saved his life earlier in the game), and while we do not see the accident happen, the child's blood-soaked hat landing nearby leaves very little to the imagination. This trope is actually Zigzagged: due to Mad Rat's time-manipulation, it doesn't stick, but thanks to Rat God, she nullifies said attempt. At the end of the game, this is once again averted thanks to Heart.
  • Interface Screw: The rhythm is not constant with every song. A few songs suddenly change tempo, notably by slowing down.
    • Hard mode can mess with your timing, as it adds strings of red notes, all of which have to be hit in order for Mad Rat to move, requiring the player to both pay attention to the level, and to the heart at the bottom.
  • Irony: Rat God's entire purpose of manipulating Mad Rat was to get him eaten by a cat to live. Said plan is screwed over because of Heart, who is actually a cat.
  • Light Is Not Good: The Nightmares, as well as other hazards such as fire, are bright and vibrant like abstract graffiti to more easily see them coming up as obstacles. Even the Doctor wears sky blue and the Mob Rats are mainly white. This is made all the more apparent with the stages themselves having more subdued colours so that they can stand out. The game actually plays with this trope: the zombification of the Mob Rats are actually a hallucination from Mad Rat, whereas the doctor can be given more noble aims and even wish that Mad Rat be spared, depending on your answers at the beginning of the game.
  • Macro Zone: Most of the game is this. Justified since the main character is a rat.
  • Meaningful Name: The protagonist's name is Mad Rat. He's naturally pissed and seeks vengeance on the Doctor that dissected him, but he is also going insane thanks to Rat God's brainwashing.
  • Mickey Mousing: The entire point of the game is that you make your moves to the beat. In cutscenes, various characters will stand still, but they will move themselves to the beat of the background music.
  • Minimalist Cast: There are about eight characters in the whole game, nine if you count the Nightmares.
  • Punny Name: Stage 4-1 is entitled "Call me Jack". It sounds very similar to Colby-Jack, a type of American cheddar.
  • Remixed Level: "Some Kind of Hope" has the same layout as the preceding level, "Cottage House", except with some additional hazards and a faster song. Justified as the former was a rather leisurely stroll through the city, while the latter level has Mad Rat racing to save the girl from being run over by a truck.
  • R-Rated Opening: The intro has the protagonist being vivisected in full view, all while cheerful music is playing.
  • Samus Is a Girl: While Mad Rat refers to the doctor by male pronouns, the scientist actually takes your name you put in the beginning of the game, which can be female.
  • San Dimas Time: Despite having a Time Rewind Mechanic, each stage has its own time limit that moves along to the stage's song's beat.
  • Scenery Porn: The backgrounds are lovingly detailed like a painting. The tutorial stage, for instance, is a melty cheddar cheese moon with evening purple-coloured hills and stars that twinkle to the beat of the song.
  • Science Is Bad: Initially, the scientists are portrayed cruelly, starting from vivisecting the main character. It's no wonder Mad Rat is hell bent on vengeance. However, towards the end of the game, the scientist may be working towards more noble goals, depending on your answers to the questions near the start of the game.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: The main villain is a sapient Toxoplasma gondii parasite that pretends to be god in order to lead rats to be eaten by cats.
  • Skewed Priorities: A Mob Rat becomes a monster and makes the move to attack Mad Rat, he shoves it away and Heart freaks out and tells him that pushing him was rude. This foreshadows that Heart can't tell Mad Rat's suffering from Rat God's brainwashing.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The intro cutscene has the first part of the cheery-sounding "Mad Rat Alive" play on loop as you answer questions and Mad Rat is vivisected.
  • Stock Animal Diet: Mad Rat and all rats go crazy over cheese. In fact, the rat afterlife is full of melted cheese. Goals are columns of melted cheese. Fading platforms are even cheese-covered. The game actually Deconstructs this trope. Rats that follow cheese end up getting eaten by a cat. That is the work of a parasite inside their heads that has them hallucinate cheese and encourages them to pursue the cheese. Once Mad Rat leaves those hallucinations, the actual rat paradise is actually covered with skulls and thorns, instead. Even when the girl feeds him real cheese, Mad Rat, despite his joy, only ate around a bite before offering the rest to Heart. Ironically, Heart is actually a cat, that is, an animal that actually likes cheese.
  • Surprise Creepy: The game at first glance seems to be a stylised comical action platformer/rhythm game with a comical and full-of-'tude Zombie Rat as its Mascot. Its first commercials were gameplay fighting rather silly vibrant enemies to a chipper catchy soundtrack. It delivers and runs with these elements, sure, but immediately after the title screen for the demo, the intro cuts to a doctor slowly cutting open the protagonist as some rather deep questions are being asked. Each question furthers the process until Mad Rat's colourful guts pop out. After this it becomes rather standard, light swearing and fixation on revenge aside. Then it surprises you AGAIN by having the dopey, cowardly rats M.R. passed by earlier to suddenly act strangely, even dipping into some Meta-horror with loud visible static cut between their dialog before their pin-cushioned, oozey, colourful brains pop out of their heads and they attack as the first boss, hinting that there may be something more sinister at play here.
  • Time Rewind Mechanic: The main ability of Mad Rat's new heart is to rewind time. He uses this to rewind time back before he got dissected, and in gameplay, you can rewind a good sixty seconds, though the time on the counter won't be affected. According to Rat God, many creatures have this power, but use it without knowing.
  • The Usual Adversaries: The Nightmares are you most consistent enemies through the stages (and are also sometimes the only way to progress). They take many abstract forms, like little multi-eyed creatures surrounded by gaudy graffiti; fiery, spikey meteors; and sliding cacti with bird faces on them. The reason they keep appearing even after Mad Rat returns to the living world is because they originate from the Rat God herself, who is making him see them in order to get him close to a cat and be eaten.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Once Mad Rat reaches the location of the scientist at the end of the game, Heart reads a nearby journal... which consists of the answers and name you entered at the beginning of the game. In other words, the scientist who vivisected Mad Rat is actually you.
  • Voice Grunting: The characters are "voiced" through noises at certain pitches. Mad Rat has very low and scratchy-sounding voice grunting, the Rat God has high-pitched voice grunting, and Heart's voice grunting is higher than Mad Rat's, but lower than the Rat God's. The other rats have a neutral-sounding little noise made when they speak.
  • Wham Episode: The aftermath of the fight against Heart reveals that the first part of the game was Through the Eyes of Madness, as Mad Rat has been led into a trap. What follows afterwards is the slow reveal that the "Rat God" is a parasite that makes rats hallucinate and lead them to their doom.
  • Wham Line: Because at this point is when Mad Rat, Heart, and the players realize there's more going on than just getting Mad Rat's wish granted.
    Stray Rat: Thank you Rat God!
  • You Can't Fight Fate: The Rat God makes it abundantly clear that Mad Rat's fate is already sealed, and that when night falls, he will still die. This trope is actually Double-Subverted: Rat God meant that a cat would eat Mad Rat, but Mad Rat manages to not only ally himself with two cats, but also override the Rat God's control of him. However, Mad Rat is still going to die, either from his own bad heart or a failed heart transplant. He ultimately chooses to die from the former option without protest so Heart doesn't have to die with him.

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